Benign Fasciculation Syndrome (BFS) is a condition characterized by involuntary muscle twitches called fasciculations. This occurs when there is no known medical condition causing the twitches, and it is considered harmless. However, it can be very bothersome and anxiety-provoking for some people. Let’s review what BFS is, its causes, symptoms, and other frequently asked questions.
BFS is a common condition affecting about 70% of the population at some point in their lives.
BFS causes muscle twitching that goes away with movement and is not a part of other conditions that may also cause twitching, such as ALS.
The exact cause of BFS is unknown, but it is thought to be due to a combination of factors, including stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
BFS is usually a benign condition that does not indicate a serious underlying disease.
Treatment for BFS focuses on managing symptoms and addressing any underlying causes or contributing factors.
Benign fasciculation syndrome: what is it?
Benign fasciculation syndrome (BFS) is a condition that causes involuntary muscle twitching. The twitching is usually harmless and does not lead to any other symptoms. It is considered benign because it is not typically associated with serious underlying conditions.
Despite its name, BFS can be distressing for those who experience it, as it can sometimes last for weeks or months. However, it is important to note that BFS is not a life-threatening condition, and most people with the disorder are able to live normal, healthy lives with proper management.
If you are experiencing muscle twitching or other neurological symptoms, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Benign fasciculation syndrome causes
Fasciculation, or muscle twitching, occurs when a specific peripheral nerve responsible for controlling a muscle becomes excessively active, leading to involuntary movements of the muscle.
The exact cause of BFS is unknown, but it is thought to be due to a combination of factors, including:
- Caffeine use
- Cigarette smoking
- Alcohol use
- Thyroid problems
- Strenuous exercise
- Viral infections
What are the symptoms and signs of benign fasciculation syndrome?
The main symptom of BFS is muscle twitches. These twitches can occur in any muscle group but are commonly experienced in the arms, hands, calves, thighs, face, lip, nose, and eyelids. It can occur in the abdomen and any part of the body but is not as common.
The twitching may be an occasional occurrence or happen frequently. It appears when muscles are at rest and leaves once muscles begin to move again. So if you are resting, such as sitting or lying, you may start to have twitches. But when you get up and move the area, then it will subside.
Other common symptoms may include muscle cramps, which are considered cram-fasciculation syndrome (CFS).
Diagnosing benign fasciculation syndrome
Diagnosing BFS involves a thorough medical history, physical examination, and ruling out other potential causes of muscle twitches. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist called a neurologist to assist in ruling out any other medical conditions that could be causing the muscle twitching.
There is no specific test for BFS, but doctors may order the following:
- Electromyography (EMG)
- Blood tests
- Imaging of your spine and brain
Other neurological conditions can also cause muscle twitching. Although not life-threatening, the symptoms can be persistent and distressing, making it important to receive a proper diagnosis. Proper diagnosis can be key to decreasing anxiety and lowering symptoms of BFS.
Treating benign fasciculation syndrome
Most often, BFS is not treated as it is considered a benign condition. There is no cure for BFS, but there are treatments that can help to reduce the symptoms. Treatment primarily focuses on managing symptoms and addressing any underlying causes or contributing factors.
It is suggested to try lifestyle changes to avoid any triggers that cause muscle twitching. Strategies include stress reduction techniques, adequate rest and sleep, avoiding caffeine or stimulants, and avoiding strenuous exercise.
BFS has been known to be anxiety-inducing in individuals. Not only because of the twitching but because certain neurological conditions are also associated with muscle twitching, such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Anxiety can worsen symptoms of BFS, so if you are experiencing anxiety, speak to your doctor to help with reducing your anxiety.
Due to BFS's harmless nature, there has been little research done on treating the condition. Some medications that have been shown to help include:
- Vitamin B
- Calcium Channel Blockers
- Medication that relaxes blood vessels (Naftidrofuryl)
How common is benign fasciculation syndrome?
BFS is relatively common and can affect individuals of any age or gender. It is more commonly reported in adults but can occur in children as well. It affects up to 70% of healthy people at some point in their lives.
How long does it last?
The duration of BFS can vary from person to person. In most cases, the symptoms come and go over time. The duration of episodes of twitching can range from seconds to minutes or even longer. The symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years. In most cases, the symptoms eventually go away on their own. However, for some people, the symptoms may be chronic.
Benign fasciculation syndrome vs ALS
ALS is a more serious condition that causes progressive muscle weakness and paralysis. It will cause degeneration of the motor neurons that connect the brain to the spinal cord. This degeneration leads to more symptoms than just twitching. ALS is a progressive condition that can lead to death.
ALS will also cause other symptoms, including:
- Difficulty with speech and swallowing
- Vision problems
- Changes in behavior
- Difficulty walking
- Cognitive difficulty
ALS also presents with muscle twitching starting in one place. It will present the same way where it happens at rest, then fades when you start to move. With ALS, the twitching is caused by muscle deterioration.
BFS does not cause muscle weakness or paralysis, and it does not lead to death. BFS does not cause muscle deterioration, weakness, or loss of mobility as ALS does. Your doctor may order additional tests to rule out other conditions, such as ALS.
Despite the unsettling nature of the symptoms, BFS is generally considered a benign condition that does not indicate a serious underlying disease. It’s important to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatments available for BFS in order to ensure proper diagnosis and management. If you experience persistent or concerning symptoms, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and guidance tailored to your specific needs.
At what age does benign fasciculation occur?
BFS can occur at any age, but it is more commonly reported in adults. It can also affect children, although it is less common in this age group.
Can stress cause benign fasciculations?
Yes, stress can be a significant trigger for benign fasciculations. It is considered one of the most common factors that can exacerbate or initiate episodes of muscle twitches in individuals with BFS.
What is BFS muscle weakness?
BFS does not cause muscle weakness. In fact, muscle weakness is a sign of a more serious condition, such as ALS. If you have BFS and are experiencing muscle weakness, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Do benign fasciculations show on EMG?
Yes, benign fasciculations can be detected on an EMG test. The EMG allows doctors to observe the muscle twitches, but they typically do not observe fibrillations, which are abnormal rapid twitches with little to no movement.